Preparing to spend next semester in Montreal feels like a
slightly more intense version of freshman year. Although my
circumstances are different, the bittersweet goodbyes and
anticipation for future are the same.
Back in 2001, I left Grand Junction for Fort Collins and the
world of college. I bear-hugged my family and promised to be back
for Thanksgiving, thinking I’d sail through college as easily as
I’d made it through high school. Eager to leave my stifling
hometown, I thought I’d love being independent until turkey time
rolled around. Instead, I got homesick and trekked back to home by
This time, I’m flying out on half of a round-trip ticket and
won’t come back until December. Though I expect my monolingual self
to be slightly unnerved by the French language and culture awaiting
me in Quebec, I can no longer count on heading home if I freak-out
Instead of condensing my life into what fits in a midsize sedan,
I’m taking off with two oversized suitcases. Instead of
experiencing a new part of my home state, I’m bound for a brand-new
Getting away from home for CSU changed me, and I know I’ll
change even more now that I am getting even farther away from home.
I’m thrilled to see just what is out there in the big wide world,
but the inevitable inner change both delights and terrifies me.
My three years at CSU have changed me considerably from the
person I was when I entered college, and I’m grateful. Though not
every memory is a happy one, college thus far has been a
mind-expanding experience I wouldn’t trade for the world.
When I showed up in the Fort three years ago, I couldn’t even do
laundry without help. Now that I can separate whites from colors
like a pro, it’s time to get out.
Though some say studying abroad gives students time to slack
because credits transfer but grade point averages don’t, I say it
meshes perfectly with the educational ideology of university
schooling. College is supposed to challenge preconceived notions
and show the importance of thinking critically. Whether consciously
or unconsciously, everyone is guilty of stereotyping others. I
don’t believe it’s possible for anyone to return from substantial
travel with their stereotypes intact.
Over the next four months, I’ll get to know at least a few of
Montreal’s 1.8 million residents and bust a few of my own
stereotypes. Since I haven’t actually left the United States yet,
pretty much all I know about Canada comes from pre-travel
literature and stereotypes formed from others’ stories. This means
my current thoughts of Montreal consist largely of bone-chilling
cold, trendy international film festivals and hockey players with
sexy French accents. All this will start changing the moment I step
off my plane.
Simply by heading up north with an open mind, I’ll come back
with dozens of new thoughts on school, the “real” world and even
what it means to be an American. That is, if I make it through
Alicia Leonardi is a senior studying journalism and social work.
Her columns will run every other week in the Collegian. She is will
be studying abroad in Canada this fall.